NEW YORK — Textile firms at the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition used novelty goods and a strong print story to lure somewhat tentative customers.

The show, which featured 275 booths, ran Oct. 5-7 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here, and included pavilions devoted to firms from North America, South Korea and Taiwan. Attendance was up 15.4 percent, according to the event’s producer, Advanstar Communications.

Steven Glantz, vice president of Radicitextiles, said business at the show was “OK,” with buyers expressing interest in the firm’s waterproof and breathable laminates and fabrics with wax finishes.

Glantz said, “The domestic business is obviously off. Europe is a little bit flat, also. Seventy percent [of buyers] are here looking for the future and getting their ideas.”

Among Radicitextiles’ new offerings are fabrics made with aluminum-dipped yarns, which play into the trend of fabrics with metallic accents. “This isn’t as explosive as full-foil, but it kind of sparkles,” he said.

The firm, like others in the industry, has drifted away from commodity goods and placed a premium on new products and fashions.

Erich Soldat, textile sales agent, said novelty fabrics have been selling well, so “there’s no sense in selling basic goods.”

Soldat, who said the show was slower than it had been in past years, was at IFFE with Textiles Secrets International, which specializes in silk prints and is based in Los Angeles and manufactures in China.

Despite a sluggish showing at IFFE, the sales agent noted, “My business has been better than ever, especially in the high end.”

He owed this to the growing acceptance of mixing low-priced looks with expensive designer fashions, which can be seen in the textile market, as well.

“It’s either very, very expensive or very, very cheap,” said Soldat.

Jay Yoon, sales manager for Giver Tex Inc., which specializes in fabrics for women’s suits such as polyester and rayon, also is focusing on higher-end goods.

“That’s the only way to survive in this market,” he said. “The mainstream is going to China.”

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

China shipped $522.3 million worth of fabric to the U.S. during the year ended July, making for a 23.9 percent increase. Already China accounts for 9.4 percent of total fabric imports to the U.S. and is expected to pick up more share when the countries of the World Trade Organization drop quotas on apparel and textiles on Jan. 1.

Suzanne Worthington, product manager for Yellow River Inc., a private label manufacturer for brands such as Coldwater Creek, said, “I’m looking for newness, freshness.” She also was looking for the lower prices available from South Korean and Taiwanese vendors.

For the year ended July, $645.3 million worth of fabric was imported to the U.S. from South Korea, accounting for 11.6 percent of the market, while Taiwan shipped $409.4 million in fabric for a 7.3 percent share.

South Korea’s imports rose 3.4 percent during the 12-month period, while those of Taiwan slid 1.5 percent. Textile firms in those countries might have a pricing advantage over other suppliers, such as those in Europe or the U.S., but even they are expected to feel increasing pressure from China once quotas, which have regulated world trade for decades, are dropped.

Generally, fresh color arrays filled the exhibition. Deep jewel tones were especially important and were seen on prints and many burnouts, especially in velvet. There was also a lean toward darker, more neutral tones, particularly in some of the tie-dye offerings, which had a strong presence at the fair.

Euromaglia’s collection included a selection of lightweight, darkly colored tie-dyes in wool. D&N Textiles’ tie-dye looks were on knits — with clear sequins embroidered on top — and in embroideries, which also were decorated with sequins.

Alan Litman, meanwhile, showed a lighter colorway on its group of tie-dye laces. There were also delicate raschel knit laces that featured metallic yarns.

Shine also was seen at Impala with its latest addition to the “Slinky” series — a nylon and Lycra spandex base with a glittery silver finish on top, and at Sequins International, where chunky tweeds featured a plethora of textured yarns adorned with a variety of sequins.

Prints had a strong showing, as well. Alexander Henry’s approach called for prints that were less flat and required more technique, according to co-owner Phillip DeLeon. One print, called Tres Jolie, featured large, spice-colored flowers in orange, yellow, red, green and teal on a black ground.

At Robert Kaufman, smaller, ditsy-like prints on stretch velvet corduroy were going forward. “They work well for fitted, casual blazers,” said owner Ron Kaufman.

Animal-skin prints were also key for a number of exhibitors. At Impala, they were mixed in with other looks and at Exotic Silks, they featured pops of bright color.

Prints were predominant at Rio de Janeiro-based Santa Mistura Desenhos e Producoes, exhibiting at IFFE for the first time. The collective of 24 designers grouped their prints into four categories, all portraying a different aspect of Brazilian life: Winds of the Beach, Mysteries of the Forest, Heart of the City and Folk. Highlights from the collection included bright parrots on a white ground, lush tropicals in green and red on a black ground and darker-hued ethnic looks that featured symbolic motifs.